Rating: 14/20 (Dylan: 10/20)
Plot: Well, they'd already committed to making three of these things, and although nobody really liked the first one (Star Wars Episode I: Darth Vader Was Once a Little Kid) despite lovable new characters like Wotto, the fish-faced guys, and Jar Jar Binks; two lightsaber fights, including one extended one with three guys, that blow away anything in the original trilogy; Natalie Portman; and a really cool space battle that is only somewhat ruined by a little kid's presence, they couldn't just not make Episode II. So George Lucas and his pals, mostly puppets, had a barbecue at the Star Wars ranch (you haven''t had barbecue until you've had barbecued Gungan, by the way) and figured out ways to fix the franchise. They came up with the following list:
1) Less of the maligned (unfairly?) Jar Jar Binks
2) Replace the comic relief Jar Jar Binks provided with more scenes featuring the lovable robot duo of R2-D2 and C3PO. Everybody loves them! And everybody loves puns!
3) Bring on Boba Fett. Star Wars nerds love that guy, so they will naturally love to see him as a little kid.
4) More romance. The first trilogy had some romance, including a developing love affair between a guy with his own sister. And the characters in that original trilogy have to be conceived at some point, right?
5) A lot of political mumbo-jumbo, and numerous scenes taking place in a big room with outer space senators. After all, people love watching C-SPAN. They'd surely love C-SPAN in space!
6) Christopher Lee. That guy makes everything better.
7) A scene with a scantily-clad Natalie Portman chained to an obese, slimy green thing.
8) Give Obi-Wan a freakin' beard! He's got one in the original Star Wars, and it might confuse people when he doesn't have one in the prequels.
And from George Lucas's original notes and stick figure drawings, they penned a script in under an hour (Rocky time!), called up John Williams to see if he could compose the exact same music he'd already composed for the other movies, found some random guy working in a deli who really knew how to slice meat and sounded vaguely Jedi-like when he said, "Hello, my name is Hayden. How can I help you today?", and made the magic happen.
This movie loses points every time C3PO has a line. What the hell were they thinking? "I'm beside myself"? "This is such a drag"? Come on. I don't think that idiom is going to survive a long, long time or make any sense in most galaxies that are far, far away. And I don't think a distressed robot would say something like that. It's unbelievably stupid and probably represents what almost all original trilogy fans hate about this next generation of Star Wars movies.
However, this movie is a lot of fun, and I honestly can't understand why it wouldn't appeal to fans of the original trilogy. It's a bridge movie, much like The Empire Strikes Back, so it doesn't complete a story. It's got a saggy middle weighted down with politics and the romantic developments on Naboo between dopey Anakin and his not-very-sandlike love interest. But let's take a look at what it does have:
--my favorite shot from any of the Star Wars movies not featuring Akbar or his fish-faced friend when Portman's scratched by one of those Harryhausen-inspired monsters and the trade federation guy does this little celebration
--those Harryhausen-inspired monsters in that ridiculous arena scene
--a really cool chase scene through the Fifth Element-esque city planet "streets"
--pretty funny rapport between the great Ewan McGregor (and he's nearly as good as the great Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan) and Hayden
--a cool new bounty hunter
--Boba Fett's daddy, who looks like a shinier version of the Boba Fett we all know in love but who does a helluva lot more than his son did in Episodes V and VI
--a terrific and intense fight on the rainy planet between Jango Fett and Obi-Wan
--explanations for things in the original trilogy, like where Stormtroopers come from
--Obi-Wan slinking around like a noir movie detective sans fedora
--Christopher Lee as a Sith bad guy, classy and evil
--parallels between future-Vader and his son Luke
--Yoda yielding a lightsaber, hopping around like a banshee. Are you kidding me? I literally urinated in my movie theater seat when I saw that on the big screen.
--more lightsabers at once than you can count, slicing and dicing robots and those waspy-looking things
--some great new settings (the aforementioned rainy planet and the waspy-looking things planet) along with the beautiful Naboo
If you travelled back in time to before the prequels were made, found a diehard Star Wars fan, and told him that George Lucas was going to make more movies with those things in them, that Star Wars fan's nipple would harden. And it's all presented with the groundbreaking special effects you'd expect from a Star Wars movie. Is the story clunky? Probably. Is some of the acting really bad? Yes, and I'm looking straight at you, Hayden. Should Anthony Daniels have stopped the director and said, "Wait a second, boss. I'm not so sure C3PO would ever say this"? Maybe. But despite the film's flaws, this episode, like the other two in the trilogy, were fun enough to make me feel like a kid again, and I loved being able to experience the Star Wars universe with my own kids.